Burns uncertain on Net Neutrality: let him know where you stand

In my post yesterday on Net Neutrality, Jason commented:

The Senate version (S. 2686, Communications, Consumers Choice and Broadband Deployment Act) of the bill that Net Neutrality failed to make it into in the House is due for markup in committee on Thursday. Burns is on the committee marking it up.The committee will also have the opportunity to remove a piggyback provision from the bill that would require broadcast flags for digital content, meaning that anything capable of viewing digital content would have to refuse to read anything without it. This would be an infrastructure for controlling content on everything from TVs to PCs. And it has no good reason to be there except that a couple of very powerful lobbying organizations (MPAA, RIAA) are trying to protect their benefactors increasingly obsolete business model.

Burns needs to hear from his constituents before Thursday’s hearing. He’s still our Senator for now.

Montana Jones has a dog in this race: he relies on the Internet for his livelihood. He penned letters to Baucus and Burns, and got a response from Burns’ office:

I completely agree that the Internet should remain an open and neutral medium to conduct commerce and gather information. I generally dislike Internet regulation, but I agree that the concern over large ISPs granting priority to one content provider over another has merit and should be monitored closely. Although it hasn't happened yet, the issue of large ISPs granting exclusive deals with content providers is a serious one and could have drastic effects on Montanans and Montana businesses.As you know, there is a piece of legislation that has been introduced by Sen. Snowe and Sen. Dorgan that addresses the issue of net neutrality. While I fully support the spirit and intent of this bill, I do have some concerns with how it goes about ensuring the Internet remains a free an open forum. I feel that the FCC is in a much better position to protect consumers from abuses regarding the Internet than Congress and would like to see them monitor this situation to make sure large ISPs do not grant exclusive deals and harm consumer's interest. I also have concerns with a blanket 'equal priority' because there could be serious unintended consequences due to the increase in popularity of VoIP and related emergency communication over the Internet. There could be a day when we want to ensure emergency VoIP calls have priority over downloading music or video games.

Sen. Stevens has included language in the telecommunications overhaul of 2006 which will give the FCC the tools they need to closely monitor this issue and quickly act if any large ISPs attempt to make exclusive deals with content providers. I feel this is the best way to solve this potential problem without creating any unintended consequences. Rest assured, I am taking this matter very seriously and am working hard to ensure the Internet remains and open forum and remains an effective and useful tool for Montanans.

Seems to me he’s saying he’s against Net Neutrality, doesn’t it?

One of Burns’ concerns – “…we want to ensure emergency VoIP calls have priority over downloading music or video games…” – is actually addressed in the Net Neutrality amendments presented by Markey in the House and Drogan/Snowe in the Senate. As I posted yesterday, the Net Neutrality amendments ensure that network providers can prioritize the type of information sent, but not discriminate within that type based on company or product or — *gasp* — political affiliation.

Ultimately, Jason is right. Call Burns. Drop him notes. Let him know that Net Neutrality is important to Montanans.

And I still haven’t heard back from Baucus. Neither has Montana Jones. Hello? Baucus, you have a constituency!

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